Thursday 20 June 2019

Tread Softly: Yeats goes Underground to inspire London commuters

Poems on the Underground

London: Catching the tube
London: Catching the tube
He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven, by W.B .Yeats. The poem features on London's Tube as part of the Poems on the Underground series for Yeats2015.
Legends, by Eavan Boland. The poem features on London's Tube as part of the Poems on the Underground series for Yeats2015.
Sailing to Byzantium, by W.B .Yeats. The poem features on London's Tube as part of the Poems on the Underground series for Yeats2015.
Mise Raifteirí an File, translated by Lady Gregory. The poem features on London's Tube as part of the Poems on the Underground series for Yeats2015.
'What is truth?', by Louise MacNeice. The poem features on London's Tube as part of the Poems on the Underground series for Yeats2015.
Pól Ó Conghaile

Pól Ó Conghaile

Millions of Londoners and visitors to the UK capital can now read the poems of WB Yeats and other Irish poets on the Tube.

The works are featuring in Underground carriages due to a partnership between Yeats 2015 and Poems on the Underground, which works to bring poetry to a wider audience.

Transport for London is also set to print 100,000 copies of the an anthology celebrating Irish poetry for free distribution on the Tube this year.

Poems on the Underground (Penguin) will be published on March 26, with works by Yeats, Patrick Kavanagh, Seamus Heaney and Nuala NiDhomhnaill among others.

Yeats poems featuring on carriages include 'He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven' (below) and the first stanza of 'Sailing to Byzantium'.

London Poetry, Yeats 1.png
He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven, by W.B .Yeats. The poem features on London's Tube as part of the Poems on the Underground series for Yeats2015.

Other Irish poets taking to the Tube include Louis MacNeice, Eavan Boland and Ireland’s Chair of Poetry, Paula Meehan (see gallery above).

Antoine O’Raifteirí, blinded by smallpox in the late 18th century, also features, with the famous opening line "I am Raftery the poet, full of hope and love".

The poems will appear on thousands of London Underground train carriages during March/April, June/July and October/November of this year.

1.265 billion passengers travel on the Tube every year, according to Transport for London, with Waterloo Station alone processing 89.4 million people a year.

It appears they're being inspired too, if this tweet is anything to go by.

Yeats 2015 is a year-long programme of events celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Nobel Prize-winning poet's birth. It is supported by the Department of Arts, Heritage & Galetacht. 

Poems on the Underground was set up by American writer Judith Chernaik in 1986. It partners with Transport for London every year in an effort to place poetry before millions of Tube passengers. 

“We are delighted to celebrate Yeats 2015 with a special set of poems by Irish poets and we hope that people will love them as much as we do," Ms Chernaik said.

However, this isn't the first time Yeats has ventured Underground, as the below photo - snapped at Westminster in February 2012 - illustrates.

"Yeats spent many years of his life in London and his work continues to enjoy enormous popularity with British people,” added Dan Mulhall, Irish Ambassador to the UK and himself a Yeats scholar.

Find more on Yeats2015 at www.yeats2015.com.

Read more:

Yeats Country: 17 photos of Sligo and Leitrim that are pure poetry  

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